Sharing organizational knowledge, networking and effective collaboration is critical in a networked world. Channelized properly, the employee intranet can be a great and effective business tool. Careful planning, thought and an incredible amount of foresight is needed to build a scalable, robust and secure intranet.
Most corporates require a solution that is wide-ranging and extensive: it can include basic services such as e-mail, file-sharing as well as additional or customized facilities including document management and effective videoconferencing. Intranets are usually composed of the same parts: a network, file-sharing, communication, and user-friendly apps.
Big companies usually deploy the intranet for similar reasons: distribution of information, posting shared documents, and allowing access to specific applications.
Boosting employee morale, increasing productivity, and encouraging a sense of camaraderie are associated goals of the intranet. Experts concur that there are a few important pointers in building robust intranet architecture.
- Clearly define goals:
Intranets are not meant to be a panacea for every company. Neither are they guaranteed to enhance productivity and increase wellbeing. A properly planned intranet is a solid foundation and a mechanism for getting companies into a comfort zone. Also, creating a clearly articulated policy which ensures that the intranet adheres to pre-established guidelines can go a long way in creating a successful network. Undertake a comprehensive review of the current technology using existing guidelines.
Identify existing information architecture problems with the existing structure of the intranet. There are thousands of technologies available. Choosing a platform can be daunting, challenging and problematic. When making an assessment, consider factors including editors, workflow tools, application integration, comprehensive search capabilities and social media functionalities.
- Creative Thinking:
Many companies incubate and encourage a system of innovation, and creative freedom. Free-wheeling ideas often can give impetus to far-reaching changes, and impact the world in profound ways.
- Security in the DNA:
Network security always has to keep in mind the persistent threat of hackers accessing confidential records and bringing down mission-critical apps. Although security devices including firewalls, virus scanners et al can help to mitigate the threat, most planners fail to see the impact of skewed network planning.
Viruses, botnets, rootkits, malware, spyware: the list of threats increases every year. Intranets are susceptible to large-scale attacks. Worms, DDoS (Distributed Denial Service of Attacks), hostile applets, and other security threats can pose grave threats to the existing intranet.
- Prioritize Intranet Initiatives:
Business planning often neglects critical outcomes and focuses on short-term gains. Buying an intranet requires careful analysis of the current intranet architecture. The planned business gain includes savings in operating costs, reduction in existing paperwork, enhanced customer service, and accessibility to the latest global information.
This includes costs such as server and network upgrades to handle traffic, management tools and effective utilization of manpower, software licenses and up gradation, publishing information and archiving existing resources.
Development lifecycles depend on prioritizing and allocation of tasks. Create a unique and targeted strategy that takes into account core intranet roles and responsibilities. Transformational value depends on the amount of differentiation the intranet has.
Segregate teams further depending on technical tasks. The intranet has the potential to truly transform the corporate setup provided business goals are clearly delineated.
Constraints that crop up at a later date including preparing for growth in the number of publishers and users, properly using web and network management tools, server management, tweaking legacy systems, and deciding the requisite platform.
- User Engagement:
Most intranets work on a user engagement policy. Understanding what employees require from the portal goes a long way in designing an effective intranet. Sites are unanimously regarded as great when they create an emotional and psychological connect with the user.
Great intranets provide accessibility to people. Although ideas are enshrined in policies, real-time usability often does not factor in technology vision statements. Making the intranet easy-to-use and simple to understand can facilitate creative and useful interaction.
Effectiveness depends on sharing, collaboration, and providing access to information customers require. From a systems perspective, follow a structured path to creating value.
Understanding key stakeholders in the process, their needs, redesigning the overall program and aligning intranet benchmarks according to user requirements can create effective interest groups and sustained value-driven growth.
- Iterative Improvements:
Depending on feedback from existing stakeholders, multiple iterations can be factored into the current intranet. Overhauling current design, maintaining a standard page layout, establishing a consistent navigation structure, and creating a comprehensive content management system are only some of the steps needed in a thorough intranet implementation.
Established workflow standards such as the use of style sheets, customized page templates, extensibility, personalization, and understanding usage statistics go a long way in tweaking the intranet and making it globally acceptable.
Creation of metadata including relevant keyword indexes, interesting subject taxonomies, an integrated authoring environment, powerful linking, single-sourcing, version control can make the intranet extremely competitive.
An enterprise-wide employee intranet entails considerable thought, technical fine-tuning, and involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the iterative process.
Relevant technical groups, business units, and end-users need to be involved in every aspect of intranet planning. The extent of usability determines whether the intranet can be a success within the organization and prove to be a boon for management.
- Employee Satisfaction:
The measure of true success is when employees are not disgruntled. The intranet has to be a forum for collaborative exchange, social networking, and effective communication.
Blogs, wikis, videos et al add a touch of personalization and customization to the existing intranet. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, emails, voice mails are generated on a daily basis.
Accessibility to people, intuitiveness for the end-user, and collection of relevant ideas guarantees eventual success. Firms have ushered in mobile accessibility, and created a more interactive experience.
Feedback based on user-testing can help in tweaking the design further. Competitive differentiation is based on search initiatives, the number of pages, and improving site-specific initiatives. Employees are a useful knowledge resource, and can assist intranet initiatives.
Any intranet would work only if there is a grassroots approach to collecting ideas and then testing the site. Perceived communication effectiveness, employee satisfaction, and eventual intranet growth are related to following global best practices.